California National Guard Uses Military UAV for Search & Rescue


At the request of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office and California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, the California National Guard recently launched in the search for a missing person an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) typically used for defense and border surveillance.

On Wednesday morning, July 29, the Cal Guard used the UAV to help search for 45-year-old Edward Kavanaugh, who was last seen July 17 when he went motorcycle riding in the El Dorado National Forest.

This was the first time such a vehicle has been used by the National Guard to aid a search-and-rescue effort, says the Cal Guard.

The aircraft, an Air National Guard MQ-9 Reaper, departed the March Air Reserve Base near Riverside. Equipped with infrared sensors, image-intensified cameras and laser illuminators, it bolstered the active search-and-rescue efforts in the national forest by providing detailed aerial pictures that were instantly relayed to National Guard ground crews and their civilian partners.

The El Dorado County Sheriff's request for use of the UAV came to the Cal Guard through the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, which provides the Cal Guard oversight in state emergency-response missions. On average, the Cal Guard responds to a state incident, including wildfires and search-and-rescue missions, once every three days.

‘In 2013, the Cal Guard's remotely piloted aircraft aided firefighters during the Rim Fire, and now – for the first time ever – it is helping an active search-and-rescue mission,’ says Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, California's adjutant general. ‘This technology allows us to provide persistant coverage of the search area in support of our partner agencies.’

During that 2013 mission, the MQ-1 Predator provided aerial imagery in support of interagency firefighters on the ground as they battled the third-largest fire in California's history.

‘Having access to mutual aid resources like this is an amazing asset for our state and our local counterparts in times of crisis,’ says Mark Ghilarducci, director of California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

The Cal Guard and California Governor's Office of Emergency Services remind the public that privately owned UAVs should not be flown near search-and-rescue or firefighting activities.

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